A few weeks ago I was interviewed on the“Green, Better, Best” radio show. I was asked in advance to provide a "top ten” list of energy saving tips for the home. I've been asked this many times before, and I always feel like I’m being asked to discover the “easy” button. When it comes to energy generation and efficiency, there are no silver bullets that will take down the beast, but with good planning we can achieve success using “silver buckshot”.

 

In terms of energy generation, I envision a future with a wide variety of existing and new fuels and technology. Power sources will be linked together through an intelligent distribution system that allows my solar electric system to provide you with power as easily and seamlessly as the fusion generator 300 miles away. I will focus on efficiency here since efficiency is always faster, cheaper, and easier than building a new power plant. Unlike generation – be it coal, nuclear, wind, or anything else – it’s really hard to find any negative impacts of efficiency improvements to argue about.

 

While there are some things worth doing in all buildings, there are also many variations, levels of effort, and nuances to the specific actions you might need to take in your home. The approach I advocate is to work with an experienced energy auditor to create a comprehensive, long term efficiency plan for your home, then tackle each item in a “deep” and permanent way that doesn't prevent someone from doing a more comprehensive job in the future. By long term, I mean the lifetime of the building, 50 to 100 years. Honor the fact that your home will likely be lived in long after you've moved out, and your decisions will affect a long-lived social resource.

 

My list of efficiency improvements is based on practicality, long-term cost effectiveness, and the ability to layer more efficiency tomorrow on top of what you do today. Layering allows for a staged approach to the goal of “zero net energy”, meaning that once you achieve maximum energy reduction, you can meet the remainder of your energy needs through renewable sources. Staging improvements over time is primarily a budget control strategy. If you can manage all the work at once, by all means do it and get it done.

 

Your improvement priorities may very well be based on non-energy related outcomes. Perhaps you want a dry basement, or a draft-free living room for example. These are the places to start and the energy savings can help to pay for the improvements. Whatever you do should fit into the long term plan for deep energy reductions in the home.

 

The abbreviated lists below break out the improvements into two “tiers” of savings that allow you to move from cheap and easy to expensive and difficult.

Cheap and Easy

  1. Awareness of habits and energy users
  2. Lighting – switch to efficient lighting products
  3. Stop drafts
  4. Control standby, or “phantom” loads with controlled power strips
  5. Lower heat and hot water temperatures
  6. Use less hot water
  7. Insulate water heater and pipes
  8. Repair water leaks
  9. Seal and insulate ductwork
  10. Use the sun to heat your house and dry your clothes

 

Expensive and difficult

  1. Assess your energy use with a home energy monitor
  2. Change your lighting plan to get light where you need it
  3. Comprehensive whole house air sealing
  4. Purchase more efficient appliances and use fewer of them
  5. Add significant insulation
  6. Install maximum efficiency heat and hot water equipment
  7. Install window treatments like cellular shades, quilts, or storm windows
  8. Add windows to increase solar gain
  9. Add thermal mass to store solar energy
  10. Install renewable energy systems to meet at least half the remaining energy use

Listen to the full show for more on the tiered and staged approach to saving energy in a practical way that also supports future efforts. 

Visit Paul at www.nrgrev.com

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